Nuclear Trade With India OK'd

The 45-nation group of nuclear exporters on Saturday opened the door for international trade in sensitive technology and material with India, the New York Times reported (see GSN, Sept. 5). The Nuclear Suppliers Group gave New Delhi an exemption from rules prohibiting atomic exports to nations that have not joined the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and do not allow international oversight of all their nuclear facilities.  The decision in Vienna removes another obstacle from enactment of a proposed U.S.-Indian civilian nuclear trade deal. "I don't think a lot of people thought we'd be able to get this through the NSG this weekend," said Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

Rice called China's foreign minister and officials from other NSG nations in a late burst of diplomacy to seal the agreement.

The group makes its decisions by consensus and nations such as Austria, Ireland and New Zealand had expressed strong reservations about the terms of the agreement.  Among the sensitive issues was how the group would respond to further tests of India's nuclear arsenal (Sengupta/Mazzetti, New York Times, Sept. 7).

New Delhi on Friday said the deal would not lead to a revived nuclear arms race or exports of weapon-usable nuclear technology to other states.  That pledge helped overcome resistance from Austria and other nations, the Associated Press reported (William Kole, Associated Press/Yahoo!News, Sept. 7).

India has already agreed to open its civilian nuclear facilities to international scrutiny.

"Most countries have realized the logic of the United States in arguing that it is better to have India inside the [nuclear nonproliferation] tent instead of treating India as an outcast," Lalit Mansingh, former Indian ambassador to the United States, told the Times.

The administration must now push its nuclear deal with New Delhi through Congress in the next two weeks, a high-level State Department official said.  Rice expressed optimism that lawmakers would sign off on the agreement.

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Howard Berman (D-Calif.) said the White House must provide more details about the NSG decision in Vienna before he agrees to move quickly on the nuclear agreement.  It is important to verify that no member nations were persuaded to vote in favor of India by receiving side agreements with the United States, Berman said.

"It is highly questionable whether such a complex and controversial agreement can be thoroughly examined before the House and Senate adjourn for the elections," Representative Edward Markey (D-Mass.), a leading critic of the deal, said in a statement Saturday.

However, the deal is likely to be approved if it goes for a vote in Congress this month, critics said.  The pact appears to have broad support in the House, even though it is a "very, very bad deal," said Representative Ellen Tauscher (D-Calif.) (Sengupta/Mazzetti, New York Times).

"India's signature on a treaty banning further nuclear testing was strenuously resisted by New Delhi, Washington, and other capitals that stood to make financial gains from civil nuclear commerce with India," South Asia expert Michael Krepon wrote today in an analysis circulated by the Henry L. Stimson Center.  "At the Bush administration's insistence, the NSG even declined to clarify penalties in the event of a resumption of nuclear testing by India."

The waiver for India "should concern every member of Congress," Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association, told Global Security Newswire last week in anticipation of possible NSG action.

Now U.S. lawmakers should "review and possibly condition a resolution of approval and make sure at least U.S. trade is consistent with the law they passed in 2006," he said.  Kimball was referring to the Hyde Act, which set terms for implementation of the U.S.-Indian deal.

However, he noted, with a relatively permissive NSG approval in hand, nothing stops India from pursuing nuclear trade deals with Russia or France that exclude the Hyde Act's nonproliferation provisions, which include a cutoff in sensitive exports to New Delhi in the case of a nuclear weapons test.

"Instead of working to multilateralize these conditions in the NSG, the Bush administration lobbied to nullify them," Krepon explained.  "If and when New Delhi resumes nuclear testing, in all likelihood Washington will impose penalties, while others pursue profits."

"That's what's so self-defeating about the Bush administration approach at the NSG," Kimball said.  "They're supposed to be working for the American taxpayer, not the Indian taxpayer" (Elaine M. Grossman, Global Security Newswire, Sept. 8).

Indian Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee said today his nation would "actually enter into trade with supplying countries through bilateral agreements (only) after the ratification (of the deal) by the U.S. Congress," Agence France-Presse reported.

"As far as the procedure is concerned, now we shall have to wait for the ratification of the agreement," he added (Agence France-Presse I/Spacewar.com, Sept. 8).

Reaction to the NSG decision in India and other nations has been mixed, AFP reported.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said the NSG decision "marks the end of India's decades-long isolation from the nuclear mainstream."

"It is a recognition of India's impeccable nonproliferation credentials and its status as a state with advanced nuclear technology.  It will give an impetus to India's pursuit of environmentally sustainable economic growth," he said.

However, Yashwant Sinha of the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party called the agreement a "nonproliferation trap set by the U.S."

"We have given up our right to test nuclear weapons forever, it has been surrendered by the government," he said (Agence France-Presse II/Spacewar.com, Sept. 6).

Nuclear Suppliers Group member China expressed hope that the agreement would "be conducive to international cooperation on use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes and prevention of nuclear proliferation."

Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Nobutaka Machimura said the deal "would be a tool to prevent the emission of a huge volume of greenhouse gas as this emerging country of a billion people continues its rapid growth."

The Japanese daily Asahi Shimbun, though, said the decision by Japan and other NSG members was "a historic mistake" and a threat to international nuclear nonproliferation.

"After North Korea, there are now strong proliferation concerns about Iran," the newspaper said.  "This should really be a time to increase the integrity of the NPT and attempt to ease the nuclear crisis.  This decision goes completely in the opposite direction" (Agence France-Presse III/Spacewar.com, Sept. 8).

While it supported nuclear trade with India, NSG member Australia said today it would still not ship uranium to the South Asian nation, Reuters reported.

The ruling Labor Party "is committed to supplying uranium to only those countries party to the [Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty].  Australia will therefore not be supplying uranium to India while it is not a member of the NPT," Trade Minister Simon Crean told the Australian newspaper (Reuters/AlertNet, Sept. 8).

The question of further Indian nuclear tests remains an open question.  Officials in New Delhi have said the nation retains its right to conduct additional blasts as deemed necessary, no matter what is claimed in Vienna or Washington.

"In terms of consequences, of course, when we decide to do that, we need to factor in possible consequences," Indian Atomic Energy Commission Chairman Anil Kakodkar said last week (Indian Express, Sept. 4).

If India wants to establish a larger, more sophisticated nuclear arsenal, it would have to perform tests, South Asia expert Stephen Cohen of the Brookings Institution told the Times.

Another option would be to enact a "nuclear restraint agreement" with fellow nuclear weapons holders China and Pakistan, Cohen said.

"This is the time for the Indian government to declare what kind of nuclear capability they will have and negotiate with the other Asian powers to avoid a nuclear arms race," he said (Sengupta/Mazzetti, New York Times).

One alternative for ensuring the viability of India's atomic weapons would be to conduct subcritical nuclear tests, which do not create a critical mass and thus produce no nuclear explosion, Indian scientists said in a report last week.  The United States and Russia have conducted such tests for years, according to the Indian Telegraph newspaper (see GSN, March 13, 2007; Telegraph/BBC Monitoring, Sept. 5).

September 8, 2008
About

The 45-nation group of nuclear exporters on Saturday opened the door for international trade in sensitive technology and material with India, the New York Times reported (see GSN, Sept. 5). The Nuclear Suppliers Group gave New Delhi an exemption from rules prohibiting atomic exports to nations that have not joined the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and do not allow international oversight of all their nuclear facilities.  The decision in Vienna removes another obstacle from enactment of a proposed U.S.-Indian civilian nuclear trade deal. "I don't think a lot of people thought we'd be able to get this through the NSG this weekend," said Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

Countries